My Empty-Bucket List

Bucket-List-movieThrowback Thursday 5/31/2013

For many years, I’ve conducted an activity with my college students, asking them to create their own version of the famous “Bucket List”.  I warn them that the list should not include professional goals necessarily, but rather focus upon the “really neat”, “exciting”, “extraordinary”, places, events, activities, etc., that they would like to someday accomplish, see, experience, etc.

Funny that it has never been asked in several years of teaching it, but recently one of my adult students asked for my own top three bucket list items. 

I stammered.

I stuttered. 

My thoughts raced to my age, thinking about how I should not only be able to rattle off my top 10, but should have checked off a few by now.

After class, I tried hard to mentally arrange a list for myself.  I thought about visiting Europe, but other than that, I struggled with the possibility of having anything to look forward to.  (The proverbial bucket list obviously does not include the graduations of my kids, their weddings, etc., but rather a catalogue  of personal interests.)  Each “really neat”, “exciting” or “extraordinary” thought that came to my mind was instantly squashed by my ever-present pragmatism.  How could I leave the kids?  How could I ever afford that?  Who am I to dream so big?

Once upon a time, in the much-younger version of myself, I fantasized big.  I not only planned goals, dreams, and future achievements, I fully expected them to happen.  The closest I’ve come to creating any meaningful list in recent years is our annual Summer Bucket List.  The content changes the older the kids get, but we make the list, post it on the fridge, and cross off as many as possible by late August.

My student’s question was innocent, he simply being curious about me as a person. Something that exclusively pertains to my personal interests is no longer even a thought.  I have so immersed myself in the tending and nurturing of the nest, that I have forgotten to dream at all.  I realized that afternoon that I have taken my kids interests and adopted them as my own.  This past Easter, I bought a painted, tin bucket at Joanne’s, bought a stuffed dolphin to go inside of it, and hung it from the top of my 16-year old son’s Easter basket handle.  I had purchased a family dolphin swim at Discovery Cove because my son has a bucket list (unlike his Mother) and swimming with dolphins is (was) on it.  

While I’m happy to have fulfilled that dream for my son, it never even occurred to me that I should plan something for myself.  My husband has always wanted to restore a muscle car.  Five years ago, despite a fat mortgage and credit card debt, he took a few thousand, bought a needy 1969 Cutlass Convertible and restored it to mint condition.  The beautiful finished product was no match for the sheer joy that man received every day working on it.

The ponderings of a 40-something Mom, I guess, but one student’s innocent question gave me a summer task:  creating my very own Bucket List.